After a windswept and aggressive 113km of racing, Rachel Neylan has written her name in to the history books as the first winner of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. A fast finish to the race in the final 20km saw numerous attacks launched from a 16-rider front group but it was Neylan who launched the race winning move to taste her first victory of the season. Orica-AIS's Valentina Scandolara beat Tessa Fabry in the sprint for second place, 46 seconds down on Neylan.
"It is an emotional victory. It’s actually my first big race win. I’ve never actually won a race as big as this. I’m absolutely thrilled," Neylan told reporters after the race. "To win it in the way that I did, I’m still a bit shocked.
"I was so emotional [in the last km]. I’ve never really been in this position before to win such a big race," Neylan added. "To come in solo into a finish in Geelong with worldwide media watching, with all of the Australian cycling fans watching this big race it’s just a dream come true. The fans lining the side of the road – I felt like I could have been in a huge European race. It was unforgettable."
It was an attack by Neylan with nine kilometres to go that proved to be the winning move after Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) and Kendelle Hodges (High5 Dream Team) had played their hands in the fast final 30km. Having narrowly missed out on the national title earlier this month when she took Peta Mullens to the line, Neylan explained that her best chance of victory was to go solo. And her attacked was timed to perfection.
"I knew that if we were in a big group of 15-20 that I would try and go early in the finale circuit to make it a little harder for people like Georgina Bronzini and Gracie Elvin who are riders who can sprint and also climb," Neylan said. "I think for someone like myself who is not as fast in bunch sprint that is the only way I am going to make a difference by making the final circuit as hard as possible.
"I went a lot earlier than I expected but I saw an opportunity. That’s the beauty of bike racing,. You can have a plan in your head but when you see an opportunity you have to have an innate feeling and innate capacity just to go with it."
Wind and crashes set the scene
Starting down on Geelong's Eastern Beach, the women's peloton enjoyed a brief respite from the wind before embarking on the first edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. After the short neutral section, Jessica Toghill (Total Rush Hyster) was the first rider to launch an attack inside the first 10km of the 133km race. Toghill enjoyed a 10 second lead off the front of the 67 rider peloton until kilometre twelve when she was brought back and it was gruppo compacto.
With strong winds blowing along Barwon Heads Road, a mid-pack crash with 14km covered brought down a third of the peloton. The result was five withdrawals and seven groups on the group as the peloton tried to regroup.
The crash saw a strong front group of the international teams and riders in the race jump clear and the early-selection meant it was day-over far quicker than many riders would have anticipated.
At the first sprint point, Orica-AIS's Lizzie Williams took the points ahead of teammates Valentina Scandolara and Chloe Hosking (Wiggle-Downunder) with the bunch reduced to less than 20 riders as the race continued to be blown apart.
The front group split again with representation from Orica-AIS, Wiggle-Downunder, Tiffany Cromwell (Roxsolt), Rachel Neylan (Building Champions Squad) and Ellen Skerrritt (High5 Dream Team) in the 11 rider front group.
With all five Orica-AIS riders in the front break, it was no surprise who was driving the pace and causing mayhem in the cross winds. Wiggle Downunder, with three riders in the front group, were also leading a hand at the 43km mark.
A chase group of a similar size had organised itself behind the front group with Ruth Corset (Total Rush) and Carlee Taylor (Roxsolt) working hard to make the catch. With 60km left to race, the nine chasers made the catch with 17 riders leading the race.
At the queen of the mountains point in Bells Beach, Williams and Corset burst clear to challenge each other with Williams emerging victorious while Scandolara took third.
Once the race turned inland and away from the white waves that were crashing against the coast line, Annette Edmondson called it a day after working for Wiggle-Downunder teammates Chloe Hosking and Georgina Bronzini.
Once onto Forest Road and Hendy Main Road, the front group continued to press home its advantage with a strong tail wind propelling them forward, back into Geelong with it clear that the winner was ensconced within.
Taking advantage of the fast conditions, Kendelle Hodges (High5 Dream Team) launched an attack with 33km to go and quickly established a one minute advantage after three kilometres.
At 25km to go, Hodges’ lead was halved to 35 seconds and by the 22km mark it was extinguished with the peloton making the catch. Neylan and Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS) launched a counter-attack with Scandolara quickly bridging across. Behind them it was Tessa Fabry making the move to make it four leaders on the road.
Neylan then launched her race winning move on the final steep climb of the day to distance the Orica-AIS duo with 9km to race. Neylan assumed a time trial position as she maintained a 15 second lead over the chasers which had been trimmed to Scandolara and Fabry.
While the two chasers were working well together, Neylan was building her lead to 30 seconds with three kilometre left to race.
Neylan had plenty time to soak in the biggest win of her career as Scandolara got the better of Fabry with Spratt leading home the first small bunch.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Rachel Neylan (Building Champions Squad)||3:01:10|
|2||Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS)||0:00:46|
|3||Tessa Fabry (High5 Dream Team)||0:00:48|
|4||Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS)||0:01:22|
|5||Lizzie Williams (Orica-AIS)|
|6||Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS)|
|7||Ruth Corset (Total Rush Hyster)|
|8||Ellen Skerritt (High5 Dream Team)||0:01:26|
|9||Tiffany Cromwell (Roxsolt)||0:01:33|
|10||Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Downunder)|
|11||Loes Gunnewijk (Orica-AIS)||0:01:47|
|12||Carlee Taylor (Roxsolt)||0:02:13|
|13||Taryn Heather (Bicycle Superstore)||0:02:45|
|14||Lucy Coldwell (Holden Women's Cycling Team)||0:03:02|
|15||Jessica Mundy (High5 Dream Team)||0:05:01|
|16||Kristy Glover (Bicycle Superstore)||0:05:40|
|17||Chloe Hosking (Wiggle Downunder)|
|18||Kendelle Hodges (High5 Dream Team)||0:10:02|
|19||Miranda Griffiths (Holden Women's Cycling Team)||0:11:10|
|20||Joanne Hogan (Roxsolt)|
|21||Shannon Malseed (Holden Women's Cycling Team)||0:11:13|
|22||Sarah McLachlan (CBR Women's Cycling Team)||0:11:14|
|23||Jessica Huston (Wormall Civil Ccs Cycling Team)||0:11:30|
|24||Lucy Bechtel (Bicycle Superstore)||0:11:54|
|25||Nicole Moerig (Boss Racing Team)|
|26||Laurelea Moss (Holden Women's Cycling Team)||0:12:17|
|27||Alexandria Nicholls (CBR Women's Cycling Team)|
|28||Laura Darlington (CBR Women's Cycling Team)|
|29||Bridie O'Donnell (Total Rush Hyster)|
|30||Emilia Fahlin (Wiggle Downunder)|
|31||Michaela Parsons (Specialized Securitor)|
|32||Lydia Rippon (Building Champions Squad)|
|33||Sophie Mackay (Specialized Securitor)||0:13:09|
|34||Minda Murray (Building Champions Squad)||0:13:29|
|35||Crystal Wemyss (Boss Racing Team)|
|36||Chloe McIntosh (CBR Women's Cycling Team)||0:15:13|
|37||Emily Collins (Suvelo Racing)|
|38||Lucy Martin (Roxsolt)||0:15:42|
|39||Stacey Riedel (Unified Solutions Group)|
|40||Nikolina Orlic (Bikebug-Nextgen)||0:25:46|
|41||Rachel Ward (Boss Racing Team)||0:25:58|
|42||Brittany Lindores (Bicycle Superstore)||0:27:05|
|43||Carley McKay (Wormall Civil Ccs Cycling Team)|
|44||Jessica Toghill (Total Rush Hyster)|
|45||Kym Lynch (Total Rush Hyster)|
|46||Emily Cust (Holden Women's Cycling Team)||0:28:31|
|47||Gemma Ansell (Boss Racing Team)||0:30:42|
|48||Jasmine McMillan (Specialized Securitor)|
|49||Michelle Apostolou (Unified Solutions Group)|
|50||Nerine Adams (Unified Solutions Group)||0:36:01|
|51||Justyna Lubkowski (Bikebug-Nextgen)|
|52||Verita Stewart (Specialized Securitor)|
|53||Merridy Pearce (Unified Solutions Group)|
|DNF||Anna-Leeza Hull (Specialized Securitor)|
|DNF||Felicity Wardlaw (Bicycle Superstore)|
|DNF||Veronica Micich (Building Champions Squad)|
|DNF||Emma Scott (Total Rush Hyster)|
|DNF||Annette Edmondson (Wiggle Downunder)|
|DNF||Eileen Roe (Wiggle Downunder)|
|DNF||Jessica Lane (Bikebug-Nextgen)|
|DNF||Margeaux Thompson (Bikebug-Nextgen)|
|DNF||Prudence Rothwell (Bikebug-Nextgen)|
|DNF||Lisa Keeling (Boss Racing Team)|
|DNF||Gina Ricardo (Suvelo Racing)|
|DNF||Josephine Meldgaard (Suvelo Racing)|
|DNF||Stephanie Lord (Suvelo Racing)|
|DNF||Hannah Geelan (Unified Solutions Group)|
|DNS||Jemma Brown (Wormall Civil Ccs Cycling Team)|